AHF’s 2017 Rose Parade Float to Honor Victims, Survivors and Families of Orlando Nightclub Attack

In News by AHF

‘To Honor & Remember Orlando’

In the wake of the attack on the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando in June that left 49 dead and scores injured, AHF is dedicating its entry in the 128th Rose Parade® presented by Honda to honor the memory of those lost to the senseless violence as well as survivors, families and loved ones. Three survivors of the attack, the owner of the club and community members involved in the recovery and healing efforts in Orlando will ride on the float.

AHF’s float features an enormous floral dove flying over a memorial field of 49-white stars hovering over a floral garden, honoring those killed during the shooting. At the back, a ‘Tree of Life’ with notes of condolence and hope taken from the communal Orlando Pride Board ties the float back directly to the Orlando and LGBTQ community. In special tribute, 49 white doves will be released from the float.

LOS ANGELES (December 20, 2016) For the sixth year in a row, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) in partnership with its affiliated organization, Impulse Group United, will take part in the Rose Parade with a float this year that honors the memory of the 49 individuals lost to the violence in the senseless attack on the Pulse Nightclub and LGBTQ community in Orlando, Florida that left 49 dead and scores injured. AHF decided to dedicate its entry in the 128th Rose Parade® presented by Honda to honor those killed—as well as survivors, families and loved ones—after the June attack. Three survivors of the attack, the owner of the nightclub and several community members involved in the recovery and healing efforts in Orlando will ride on the float, which is titled, ‘To Honor and Remember Orlando.’

In the days and months immediately following the attack on the ground in Orlando, members of AHF’s ‘Impulse Group Orlando,’ a chapter of AHF’s federation of Impulse Groups, worked tirelessly in and with the community to honor the dead, provide for the injured and work toward salving the wounded spirit and soul of Orlando. 

The AHF/Impulse Group ‘To Honor and Remember Orlando’ Float

AHF’s float features an enormous, soaring floral dove—its wings outstretched, representing a dove of peace, leading the way for the souls of those lost to continue to fly—flying over a memorial field of 49 white stars over a floral garden, honoring those killed during the shooting. At the center of the float is a colorful floral rainbow, its colors representing the diversity of the LGBTQ community targeted as well as the entire community of Orlando and all communities in the United States, while also symbolizing the humanity of all victims killed or injured. At the back of the float, a ‘Tree of Life’ with notes of condolence and hope taken from the communal Orlando Pride Board will tie the float back directly to the Orlando community. And in a special and certain to be moving tribute to those lost, 49 white doves will be released from the float at two occasions during the parade.

Three survivors of the attack, Victor Baez Febo, Isaiah Henderson and Jahqui Sevilla, whose boyfriend was killed in the attack, will ride on the float. Other riders include Barbara Poma, cofounder and owner of the club as well as four community members involved in the recovery and healing efforts in Orlando: Patty Sheehan, an openly gay Orlando City Commissioner, who has been a vocal and passionate voice in the community and around the tragedy; Joel Morales, an HIV testing counselor and lead case worker for many of the survivors and families; and Corey Lyons and Gustavo Marrero, the president and vice president, respectively, of Impulse Group Orlando, both of whom played a significant role in the Orlando community after the attack.

“It will be a privilege to take part in this Rose Parade float honoring the dead, the wounded, the survivors and the family members left behind after the Orlando tragedy; however, we must not lose sight of the fact that this beautiful float also serves as a solemn and sacred reminder to millions of parade viewers around the world that the stigma and discrimination that led to this attack are not over—the fight goes on, and we must be vigilant in speaking out and speaking out against such bigotry, hatred and injustice,” said Impulse Group Orlando’s Corey Lyons.

Impulse to Use ‘Text to Donate’—ONELOVE (74121) to Benefit Orlando Survivors & Families

As part of honoring and remembering the Orlando community with this Rose Parade tribute float, the Impulse Group United and Impulse Group Orlando are also taking this opportunity to raise funds and awareness for charities and funds and make people aware of efforts help survivors and victims’ families of the Orlando attack. The following is the easiest way for people to contribute: Donors can text to #74121 and enter the keyword ONELOVE to make a donation.

Number: 74121

Keyword: ONELOVE

Information: All donations made to Impulse Orlando and AHF will directly serve the below organizations:

  1. onePULSE Foundation: onePULSE Foundation is Barbara Poma’s foundation aimed to provide financial assistance to the victims affected by the attack at Pulse Nightclub.
  1. Contigo Fund: Contigo Fund is an effort to strengthen and network existing agencies and to identify and support grassroots efforts that advance the Latinx and LGBTQ causes and the intersection of these two communities in Central Florida.
  1. Two Spirit Mental Health Services: Two Spirit is a local Orlando LGBTQ+ mental health organization prior, during, and after the attack on Pulse Nightclub. Two Spirit is where Central Florida’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community who are on disability or without insurance can go to get mental health and other related services.

The Impulse Group, a volunteer group of active gay men working in collaboration with AHF whose purpose is to promote healthier lifestyles using modern social approaches, often accomplishing this vision through breaking social barriers in communities with such need, became a part of the gay community of Orlando. Impulse Orlando provides engaging social events, promoting regular HIV/STI testing and services to those most at risk.

Background on AHF and the Impulse Group’s 2017 Rose Parade Float

AHF’s unconventional theme for its Tournament of Roses’ Parade float entry this year—a remembrance of, and tribute to those killed and injured in the ‘Pulse’ nightclub shooting—sprang from the extraordinary, compassionate community response to the unspeakably horrific attack, a tragedy that killed 49 individuals and injured dozens more, many, members of Orlando’s vibrant LGBTQ community. For AHF, the senseless attack on ‘Pulse’ and the Orlando community opened a raw nerve, touching both present day acquaintances and partners in Orlando as well as spurring memories of stigma and discrimination from AHF’s earliest days more than thirty years ago—stigma, discrimination and indifference that ultimately served as catalyst for the creation and founding of AHF.

When AHF first began its mission of service to the community in 1987, it provided hospice care to AIDS patients in Los Angeles, offering compassionate end-stage care during the final days for thousands of men and women—including many gay men—who, in the earliest days of the epidemic, were often ostracized by their families and from large segments of society once their illnesses and sexuality became known.

“When AHF first began contemplating themes for its Rose Parade float entry, we felt a theme of remembrance and tribute in honor of those who were killed or injured at ‘Pulse’—and in honor of the Orlando community’s indomitable spirit and extraordinary, life-affirming response toward overcoming the homophobic stigma and discrimination that contributed to this attack—would be fitting for the Orlando community and for AHF’s 2017 Tournament of Roses commemoration,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AHF. “In fact, the very name of the ‘Pulse’ nightclub is a tribute to someone lost to AIDS in earlier days of the epidemic: club co-owner Barbara Poma’s brother, John.”

Pulse Nightclub

According to a Washington Post article published the day after the shootings, the ‘Pulse’ nightclub owed, “… its name and spirit to ‘loving brother’ who died from AIDS.” In the article, Post reporter Katie Mettler, beautifully captured the story of the loving tribute that Barbara Poma, a co-founder of Pulse nightclub, offered to her older brother, John, who died from AIDS in 1991 when there were no lifesaving antiretroviral AIDS treatments available and an HIV diagnosis amounted to a death sentence.

Pulse opened a decade after John’s death and was named is his honor, as Ms. Mettler wrote:

“Barbara co-founded a new nightclub in Orlando with her friend, Ron Legler. Like the places where John first introduced her to his community’s colorful life, her club would embody that energy. It would have decor to make John proud and ‘an atmosphere that embraced the gay lifestyle,’ according to its website.

Her club would be more than ‘just another gay club.’

And so all those who visited would know its purpose, Barbara and her business partner named the venue Pulse.   ‘For John’s heartbeat,’ the website says.”

 A beacon in the GLBTQ community, the ‘Pulse’ nightclub opened its doors to Impulse Group Orlando and was a key supporter of the cause, hosting activations to promote both community engagement and free HIV testing on site at ‘Pulse’ to disproportionately affected demographics. This past March, three months before the shooting, Impulse Group Orlando partnered with ‘Pulse’ to activate a first-of-its-kind HIV testing night geared toward the Latino community. A video of that community event can be viewed here.

AHF’s Rose Parade® History

Fiesta Floats of Irwindale is envisioning and constructing AHF’s 2017 ‘To Honor & Remember Orlando’ parade entry, as it did for AHF’s previous five entries.

AHF’s five previous Rose Parade® entries include:

  • 2012: ‘Our Champion, a tribute to Elizabeth Taylor for her tireless advocacy and work in the fight against AIDS after her death in 2011. Earned the Tournament’s ‘Queen’s Trophy.’
  • 2013: ‘The Global Face of AIDS,’ a global salute to AHF patients and medical staff from around the world. Earned the Tournament’s ‘Queen’s Trophy.’
  • 2014: Love is the Best Protection,’ featured the same-sex wedding—a Tournament first—of Aubrey Loots and Danny Leclair. Earned the Tournament’s ‘Isabella Coleman Trophy.’
  • 2015: ‘Protecting Global Health,’ honored Ebola First Responders, including two AHF doctors in Africa, Dr. Sheik Hummar Khan and Dr. John Taban Dada, who died of Ebola while caring for patients.
  • 2016: ‘A Girl’s World of Adventure,’ celebrated and sought to empower young girls the world over. Riders include five 10 and 11 year-old girls—three of whom are HIV-positive—from around the US.

About the Pasadena Tournament of Roses®                                                                                                                         The Tournament of Roses is a volunteer organization that annually hosts America’s New Year Celebration® with the Rose Parade® presented by Honda, the Rose Bowl Game® presented by Northwestern Mutual and a variety of accompanying events. 935 volunteer members of the association will drive the success of 128th Rose Parade themed “Echoes of Success,” on Monday, January 2, 2017, followed by the 103rd Rose Bowl Game. For more information, visit www.tournamentofroses.com. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and visit our blog at blog.tournamentofroses.com.

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